How did you discover BOM?
A friend of mine took me to see That’s Weird, Grandma shortly after I’d moved to Chicago. She described it as, “I’m not really sure how it works, but kids in CPS write stories, and actors perform them. It’s like Saturday Night Live, kinda.” Sounded cool. While watching the show, I realized that this was actually the reason I’d moved to Chicago.
When I got home I did some internetting to find out how to join, only to discover that I’d missed the auditions by about a week. Then, the next year, there weren’t auditions. Fast forward another six months, Tim Soszko and I were teaching together and he was wearing a Monkey shirt and I asked him if he had any advice on how to join the company. He told me that I should ask about volunteer teaching, and I did. The rest is history.
What were some of your feelings when you auditioned and made it in?
I wasn’t really sure what to do for my audition, so I did a monologue from Amadeus and played the piano. I remember sitting outside the room and hearing lots of auditions that were NOT monologues, and were really making people laugh, and I thought, “I’ve made a terrible decision.”
Once I was in, I remember being in the rehearsal room for the first time and thinking, “I am sooo not good at this. These people are really talented and really funny, and I mostly do Shakespeare tragedies.” It took a long time before I really felt like I belonged in the room, and sometimes I still feel like the classical-actor guy who doesn’t really know what he’s doing.
Tell us three memorable BOM stories that you’re proud of being a part of.
1. “Crazy Monkey” by Tyler B. from LP [Loyola Park After School Program], which is in Grandmaright now.
2. “Veronica the Vegan Vampire” from Lorca [Elementary]. I didn’t actually adapt this, but I taught the author. During the residency, she asked me what “vegan” meant, and I explained it was someone who didn’t eat, drink, or wear anything from an animal. Then she asked, “So is a vegan vampire a vampire who doesn’t drink blood?” I said, “I guess so,” and she said, “Go away, I know how to write this story.”
3. Every persuasive argument about ending violence. Sadly, we read them every year, but I’m honored to have worked with this group of humans who respect the depth and gravity of a child’s writing as much as the humor and absurdity.
Three things you’re going to miss about Chicago.
1. Templestowe Pub
2. Horner Park Farmers’ Market
3. Barrel of Monkeys
Three things you can’t wait to explore/discover in Madison, Wisconsin.
1. Tip Top Tavern
2. Dane County Farmers’ Market
3. Whoopensocker [a theatre program run by Barrel of Monkeys co-founder Erica Halverson]
(What can I say, I’m a creature of habit . . .)
Two things you learned about yourself being a teacher for Loyola Park After School Program?
I learned that I actually love teaching more than performing. And, now as a parent of toddlers, I’m beginning to see how things I learned while teaching have prepared me for parenting.
From anthropomorphized creatures, to talking food, to normal, everyday people, students in Barrel of Monkeys’ arts education programs create unique and imaginative characters that we love bringing to life on the Neo-Futurists’ stage. Some of these characters are so loved by Chicago audiences that they even become staples of the That’s Weird, Grandma repertoire!
Chanyeol - the main character in “With any dark path there is a light at the end…Right?” by Libby P. in our Loyola Park After School Program - is like many other moody teenage boys. He sits in his room, chronicling his angst in a secret journal. The one difference? Chanyeol’s father is a Mafia boss.
With any dark path there is a light at the end…Right? Asking that question every day gets tiring for chanyeol. Being only the mafia’s son, he had no control over his life. He was controlled, every move. Friends? Even if they knew, or cold do something, it wouldn’t make a Difference. His father, the only thing he did was the mafia himself. Controlling, manipulating, feard. Not a thing in Chanyeols life was free, he was destined to be the same as his father while the coming of age . . .
Duli, a duck featured in “Duck Sili” by Isael C. from Graves Elementary, loves being silly. Unfortunately, his mother doesn’t appreciate his unbridled energy and constant dancing - so we watch as she learns to accept her son for who he is, silliness and all.
De Duck whas so sili sosososososo sili the he never stop Bin sili an her mom sed stop and Duli stop den duli fil to never stop den wen duli went to wis room and he stars bin sili. The End
3. The Girl With No Memory
The Girl With No Memory comes to us from Amiyah S., a student at Johnson School of Excellence. No one knows why Racheal lost her memory - not even the host of the podcast that explores this mystery. Their mother and a local doctor try to wrap their minds around this strange phenomenon, accompanied by melodramatic music and spooky narration.
one day their was a little girl who didn’t have any mamory when she got hom she brong her report card and she had all Fs and one a her Mom said how did she get The grade she had but she said nothing mom said racheal yes sweety do you know i got all these Fs sweety said her mom do you remember what happend at school? No i don’t it’s like i lost my memory . . .
We can’t wait for you to meet these folks now through July 16, along with even more characters that our students created during the 2017-18 school year. Our next performance is tonight at 8 - you can grab your tickets here!
It’s been a tradition to introduce new stories to That’s Weird, Grandma after the school year has ended and we’ve performed our end of year show, Celebration of Authors. Not only do we have new sketches - but we also have a cast featuring new performers who haven’t done TWG! We started rehearsing for the show on Saturday in the rehearsal space at the Barrel of Monkeys office in Ravenswood.
On Sunday, we had another rehearsal and then took the show on the road to Rogers Park near the Lake off of Farwell.
Happy Father’s Day - and Super Hot Day, as it was in the 90s.
Joe Schupbach, Mary Tilden, and Rachel Wilson, pre-show!
We were definitely in the thick of things with performers singing, a guy cracking a whip in an open area, and people painting in the Artists of the Wall Festival - but we had to put the show on pause when it started to rain. With electrical equipment, we want to make sure the performers are safe - as well as our paraphernalia.
Barrel of Monkeys is also proud to welcome three Barrel of Monkeys newbies to That’s Weird, Grandma - Noah Appelbaum, Jasmine Jordan, and Ida Cuttler (seen below)!
Following our touring performance, the production’s first show at the Neo-Futurists Theater last Monday had a great audience! We were absolutely energized by the crowd as well as performing with each other after a brief hiatus.
Now that we’ve wrapped up our school residencies and closed the curtain on Celebration of Authors 2018, we’re ready to return to the Neo-Futurists Theater for That’s Weird, Grandma: Brand New Stories! We’re premiering sketches, songs, and dance pieces adapted from students’ stories written during the 2018-19 school year - and we can’t wait to share their wacky and poignant pieces with the wider Chicago theatre community.
We took a moment to talk with Brandon Cloyd, Barrel of Monkeys’ Artistic Director, about how excited he is to direct this production - take a look, then grab your tickets here. Performances begin this Monday night at 8!
We’ll be sharing some of our favorite adaptations from this year in the show - and to capture just how wacky and energetic it’ll be, we compiled this promo video featuring footage from some of our 2018-19 school performances. Take a look - and then join us at the Neo for the public premieres of our newest sketches and songs. You can purchase tickets here.